BY NICOLAS FERNANDES
A woman plagued by 200 tumours that are crushing her kidneys, stomach and bladder is left in agonising pain daily, despite having had over a hundred surgeries.
Heather Wiser, 41, of Manchester, Tennessee, USA, has been battling Neurofibromatosis Type 1 her whole life, a genetic disorder characterised by the continuous formation of painful tumours.
She had her first surgery at four years old and has gone onto have around 130 more, repairing her sagging right eye and removing more than 150 of the aching growths from her body.
The mum-of-one’s lumps cause nausea and pain in her abdomen on a regular basis, which can come and go without reason.
The patient never knows from one moment to the next how she is going to feel, which is why she has never been able to work a full-time job.
On some days the symptoms are mild, while others are spent almost entirely in bed.
Heather has plans to get more surgeries, but many of her painful tumours cannot be removed.
The mum said: “I was four-and-a-half when I had my first surgery and they haven’t stopped since.
“I would say the worst part of all this is not knowing how I’m going to feel from one hour to the next.
“It can get very bad. There are some nights that I keep waking up screaming because I’m in so much pain.
“The severity is never certain. This past weekend I spent most of my time in bed with a migraine and my whole body hurting, but today I’m doing OK. In a few hours, I might start getting horrible back pain.
“I’ve done some odd jobs here and there, but I haven’t been able to do much more than that.
“I will definitely be getting more tumours removed. I once had 27 removed at once, but there’s others that will be there forever.”
Heather often has difficulty explaining her condition to doctors, mainly due to the fact that most of her symptoms are not visible.
She has even been accused of being drug-seeking on visits to the emergency room during episodes of chronic pain.
Heather said: “The ER is always the worst. All they have to do is look at my chart and they’ll see exactly why I’m there.”
While she has a lot of people who offer help, Heather tries to be as independent as possible.
Her boyfriend Michael lives with her and her mother resides in the house next door.
Heather does not consider herself to be a bad case, so she only goes to them on days that are particularly bad.
She said: “I don’t see myself as a bad case. There are other patients who have learning disabilities, seizures, become deaf or lose their ability to walk.
“I’m grateful that none of those things have happened to me. I can still take care of myself and do things around the house without any help for the most part.
“I usually like to be independent, but it’s nice knowing that they are there for me.”
Diana Haberkamp, executive director of Neurofibromatosis Midwest, says it is not uncommon for patients to have hundreds of internal tumours like Heather.
She said: “Not everyone with NF1 has noticeable physical differences. Some have tumours internally and others have no tumours at all.
“How each patient is affected varies greatly. Approximately 50 percent of people with NF1 have learning disabilities.
“Some of the most difficult struggles of the condition are finding good care and knowledgeable doctors as well as the lack of awareness and understanding by the public.”